Poltergeist - Review


Director Tobe Hooper in collaboration with producing (and directing) talent Steven Spielberg once created Poltergeist, which was released in 1982. Not only was it a great mix of horror and adventure, but it still stands strong to this very day as one of the best, most imaginative and most iconic ghost horror movies.
As it set many standards and tropes for ghost movies that are followed upon even today, this year's Poltergeist remake has a lot to live up to.
Trailers expectedly gave viewers a first impression of the movie being heavily reliant on CGI effects.
Question is, if simply updating the classic with CGI is going to do the trick for this remake. Does it bring anything new to the table? Or is it another remake, that's just a waste of time? 


The plot:
Legendary filmmaker Sam Raimi and director Gil Kenan reimagine and contemporize the classic tale about a family whose suburban home is invaded by angry spirits. When the terrifying apparitions escalate their attacks and take the youngest daughter, the family must come together to rescue her.
Source: 20th Century Fox

Nowadays, when remaking or rebooting popular franchises from the 80s and 90s has become somewhat of a misguided, sloppy trend of Hollywood, Poltergeist is yet another one of those movies that fits perfectly in. This is not necessarily just because it's also a remake of a widely popular horror movie produced by Steven Spielberg, but rather because it is a prime example of a movie that simply tries to cash in through its title alone without putting any true effort or own creativity in it whatsoever.
With a respectably high budget and equally high production values, Poltergeist is not a technically badly made movie, but rather a complete waste of time and money.
Stepping pretty much into the footsteps of the ridiculous Psycho remake of 1998, one seriously has to ask the very same question to this year's Poltergeist remake: Why does this even exist?
Especially seeing how immensely influential the original Poltergeist is on pop culture and horror movies to this very day, it's the more baffling how the Poltergeist remake really expected to be scary or original when it simply CGI-ed every iconic scene from the original.

Don't watch TV late at night, kids...and don't watch this bad remake.

But 2015's Poltergeist is not only a movie that simply fails as a capable remake of a timeless classic, but it also fails in being a satisfying movie on its own.
Even though the movie gets to the point of having a ghost infested in the Bowen family's new house, looking at the entirety of the movie, Poltergeist 2015 feels like a movie that tries to build its entire dramatic structure simply through remade iconic scenes of the original which it stacks one after the other.
Starting off with the exact same premise of a young family (this time the family Bowen instead of Freeling), it doesn't take long until the presence of a ghost or poltergeist is flatout presented to the audience as a force of evil. Like not wanting to waste any of its "precious" running time of 1,5 hours, the Poltergeist remake therefore constantly feels rushed. Like going off of a checklist, one CGI-remade iconic scene follows the next as if the movie tries to forcefully justify its own existence as a remake. What comes off as the biggest sacrifice in said rushed pace is the fact that the remake lacks any effective and necessary build-up whatsoever.
While the original took plenty of time to introduce the ghost and the Freeling family and each of its members and their personalities, the remake simply uses clicheed characters that every viewer already saw a billion times to try to avoid having to waste its time on these necessities. Instead, the ghost and loads of CGI are the stars of the show, here. The fact that actual effective build up or relatable and charismatic characters are necessary to make your movie actually scary, is obviously just neglected.

No time for build-up!: "There's a ghost in the house!!"

To be honest, even the original Poltergeist wasn't exactly a terrifyingly scary movie but rather sort of a horror adventure. This was mostly thanks to the combination of Tobe Hooper's directing- and Steven Spielberg's producing talent which granted the movie a very own style and thick atmosphere of full of menacing mystery.
Nevertheless, the original Poltergeist had some truely iconic scenes in there that shocked audiences since they were so carefully placed and build up to (like the infamous face-peel-off scene)...something that the remake clearly lacks.
Additionally held back by a PG-13 rating and mostly cheap looking CGI that doesn't manage to recapture the magic of great animatronics and puppetry work, the Poltergeist remake feels like it intentionally ditches the adventure-esque feel of the original to focus only on horror, yet the entire movie nevertheless feels heartlessly tame compared to actually good horror flicks.
Granted, there's only so much you can do in a horror movie primarily targeted towards youngsters, but working with century old horror movie tropes and scares that everybody (even the younger viewers) can predict and see coming from miles away, only makes this remake's attempts of being scary even more pathetic.

Instead, the Poltergeist remake simply tries to relocate the same scenes and scares from the original (from 1982) to this day and age, complete with social networks, smartphones, quadrocopter-drones and web-addicted teenagers. It's all painstakingly done to appeal to the "hip and cool" younger crowd of 2015, instead of actually using the technology and new opportunities to come up with some creative new ways for the ghost to appear or to scare the audience. It's wasted potential in its purest form and another indicator for the remake's uninspired writing.

If you are remaking a movie from 1982, please come up with some new scares.

Yet not only the characters are immensely thinly written in the Poltergeist remake, but so is the acting. To be fair though, it still has to be said that the actors are clearly not given good enough material to work with to make for a good performance, but even considering this doesn't offer enough good aspects to defend the overall weak acting here.
Of course the protagonist Bowen family takes center stage in the movie. And while Kennedi Clements as little girl Madison Bowen plays her role a bit too cute, Rosemarie DeWitt as mother Amy Bowen constantly feels very underwhelmed even though supernatural mayhem is taking place, Saxon Sharbino as the spoiled teenage daughter makes her stereotypical performance ridiculously annoying, and Kyle Catlett doing mostly okay, it's Sam Rockwell who sticks out the most.
Don't get me wrong, his performance is nowhere near being anything like acting gold, yet Rockwell seems like the only character who truely acts like a lighthearted father. Even though it mostly seems like Sam Rockwell is not taking the movie too seriously and just enjoying the fun of shooting it, his performance nevertheless feels very natural and unforced, which is way more than what can be said by the other sleepwalking or overly clicheed performances.

Could you please act a little more bored?

Lastly, there is the character of Carrigan Burke played by Jarred Harris. Being another victim of the "let's make it modern"-attempt of updating the remake, the exorcist lady from the original is now replaced by a phoney supernatural TV-show host.
Different from the original, Burke sadly is hard to buy as a serious help to the family's problem of a poltergeist terrorizing their life. Not only does he not have as much of a moving emotional side as exorcist lady Mrs. Tangina Barrons from the original, but he also simply is hard to take seriously. Often acting way too comedic and simply through the premise that he (SPOILER) turns out to be a fraud, mostly faking his supernatural incidents on TV (SPOILER END) his character would fit more into some kind of horror comedy like Fright Night.

They definitely should've went with another exorcist.

The effects work in the Poltergeist remake is (of course) heavily focussed on "updating" iconic scenes from the movie with CGI. Only rarely actual practical effects are used here. And while this decision surely comes over as being very much expected, the CGI in Poltergeist is very hit and miss. While in some occasions, like in for example the famous "possessed tree scene", the moving tree actually looks very real, there are certain other shots in which the tree suddenly starts to look very fake and artificial.
Granted, the effects of the orginal indeed might look pretty dated by today's standards, yet there was a healthy mix of practical as well as digital effects involved.
Much like in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, the CGI in the Poltergeist remake is still unfortunately way overdone and pulls the last teeth out of the movie's attempted sense of mystery of dread.
The biggest indicator for this, is the fact that the Poltergeist remake flatout shows you the "ghost dimension" that was effectively kept a secret and mystery throughout the original Poltergeist movie. (SPOILER) Instead, the remake directly shows you how the ghost dimension looks like, and...it's very underwhelming to say the least - moving human bodys covering the walls and in a dark empty big room...that's it (SPOILER END). It's a good example of sometimes less being more.  

"Mommy, don't let the cheap CGI eat me!"

Just like the Nightmare on Elm Street- or Carrie remake, this year's remake of Poltergeist is yet another prime example of a movie whose uninspired, CGI-overstuffed nature and bland feel make justifying its very own existence its biggest problem.
Without any own ideas or any substantial attempts on updating upon the original classic, the Poltergeist remake is nothing more than a drastically watered down version of the original, consisting only out of CGI-versions of the most iconic Poltergeist scenes. With that said, it's undeniable that this remake lacks all of the heart, mystery, atmosphere and tense build-up that made the original unforgettable to this day.

While it's a technically solidly made movie through its high production values, it's ultimately still a waste of time and money.

Anyone who is remotely interested in seeing this remake should definitely rather spend their cash on another spiritual Poltergeist remake that is far scarier and more creative - "Insidious".
And on that note, people should also check out another recently released horror movie "The Babadook"...or just watch the original Poltergeist again.
Any of these three movies is leagues better than this year's boring and unimaginative Poltergeist remake.

Final Verdict: 2 out of 10


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